The NASCAR Cup Series held its penultimate playoff race on Sunday afternoon. The Xfinity 500 took place at Martinsville Speedway. The Virginia short track provided some exciting racing in close quarters and brought out some wild moments. In the end, the official NASCAR Championship 4 was revealed and we were given a moment for the ages. Alex Bowman may not be in the championship picture anymore, but he managed to pick up his fourth win of the 2021 season in an epic Xfinity 500 finish on Sunday.
NASCAR Cup Series Recap | Alex Bowman Wins at Martinsville
Xfinity 500 Stage 1
Kyle Larson started on the pole and took the green flag to begin the Xfinity 500. Chase Elliott was able to pass his teammate before the competition caution for the lead. Larson got the lead back under the pit stops. Ryan Newman got spun around to bring out the first caution for cause of the day. Elliott would again pass Larson for the lead as his Hendrick Motorsports teammate appeared to let him by. For the second straight week, Austin Dillon made contact with Ryan Blaney, causing damage to both cars. The No. 12 car dropped several spots as a result. Elliott went on to win Stage 1.
Xfinity 500 Stage 2
Kyle Larson’s pit crew got him back to the lead, but he was caught speeding on pit road so he had to restart at the back of the field. Chase Elliott took over the lead as a result. Austin Dillon cut a tire down to bring out another caution.
Race favorite Martin Truex Jr. took over the lead on the ensuing pit stops. That did not last long though as Elliott took the lead and went on to win the stage. He officially clinched his spot into the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 with this second stage win.
Xfinity 500 Final Stage
Kyle Busch started out the last stage by getting busted for speeding on pit road. Justin Haley cut a tire down and had to pit. Josh Bilicki, Corey LaJoie, and Micheal McDowell all made contact to bring out the caution. Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin led the field back to the green on the ensuing restart, and Hamlin missed a shift to fall back. Shortly after, Quin Houff and Bilicki spun to bring out another caution. Houff then proceeded to go anspin Bilicki under caution and received a five-lap penalty.
After the restart, Ryan Newman and Ross Chastain made contact with Ross Chastain, cutting the tire of the No. 42 car and causing another yellow. Joey Logano stayed out to take over the lead. Once again, Elliott did not let that last long. Truex Jr. started to push water but was able to correct it. Cole Custer went for a spin and brought out another yellow. Daniel Suarez did as well as the caution parade continued.
Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick and Custer all stayed out during the caution for Suarez. Truex passed Dillon quickly, but then Hamlin passed Truex for the race lead. Dillon blew another tire and another caution came out. This time, Hamlin won the race off pit road. Truex had some right front damage and ended up with a tire rub. Brad Keselowski dumped Elliott after the restart with the No. 9 car blocking erratically.
Endless Cautions Deplete Tire Stores
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. went for a spin and Bubba Wallace had some damage on the caution as well. At this point, all of the lead-lap cars had no more fresh tires. Truex started to fall back after hitting the wall and he was below the cutline for a brief moment. Ryan Preece was his saving grace as he cut a tire down and brought out yet another caution.
Alex Bowman moved Hamlin on the restart but gave the spot back to the No. 11 car. Bowman then got loose and spun Hamlin out for the final caution of the day. Bowman went on to get away from Kyle Busch and Keselowski to win. Hamlin hit Bowman while the No. 48 was doing his post-race burnouts. Joining Larson and Elliott in the Championship 4 are Hamlin and Truex.
Xfinity 500 Final Thoughts
Well, NASCAR has some decisions on its hands. What do they do with Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch? Kyle made some post-race comments that may not look good for NASCAR. Hamlin could’ve caused an injury with his reckless driving. Neither deserves to be suspended nor have a points penalty, but both absolutely should be fined. The on-track racing was exciting all afternoon. It was a nerve-wracking Xfinity 500 even if you didn’t have a dog in the fight. Next week will be exciting and sad as we crown a champion at Phoenix and say goodbye to the 2021 season.